How to travel the world putting nature first

Some hotels in the tropics connect the consumer with the nature around them – often even sourcing locally.

Nature-friendly tourism is also about connecting people within communities who can protect nature. In Colombia, for example, they had a terrible problem with drug trafficking and were trying to convert their economy to a peaceful, tourism-based economy. They actually turned former FARC guerrillas into guides. And in South Africa, where rhino poaching is a really big problem, many organizations including government agencies, private sanctuaries and safari lodges have incentivized people so that local communities can actually earn more by protecting their rhinos. You’re also seeing this in Rwanda, where the government is working with local communities to reclaim land that has been used for agriculture to rebuild some of the forests where the gorillas live.

There’s a lot of green investment now, with people planting things like mangroves and restoring reefs that have been destroyed by development. So it’s not just about protecting, but also about rebuilding. I just stayed at a resort in Bali that uses 3D printers to print corals and reconnect them to sites to start rebuilding the reef and protecting fish populations.

If you are a hotel, be aware of where your energy comes from and how to buy more sustainably sourced energy. Another concern: Where do you buy your groceries? Is it imported?

A hotel does not exist in isolation. It is supplied by many people and when they source things, the vehicles they use should be eco-friendly. The goal is to try to spread this sustainability footprint throughout your supply chain, from transportation to food, energy and water.

The solution must be found at all levels. It has to be state run. It must be led by industry. And of course we should all be mindful as individuals when traveling and ask questions and challenge standards. In hotels you don’t have to change your sheets or towels every day. If hotels have plastic, ask why. In a hotel with small plastic bottles of shampoo, email the hotelier and say, “You could do better.” Buffets generate a lot of food waste. So it’s about looking at things like this and being a conscious traveler in general.

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